- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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Phegley, who made his major league debut Friday at Tampa Bay, admitted to nerves in his first game but fought through them to collect his first major league hit. He didn’t start Saturday, but was in the lineup Sunday and hit his first home run.
A home game, though, felt like he was starting anew all over again.
“Just getting the call down in Tampa, it all hit me really fast,” Phegley said. “I think coming back here it will be a little more nervous feeling again, playing in the first game at home again. It will probably be a pretty good crowd with the cross-town rivalry and I’m just excited to get it going.”
Phegley’s hit start down in Triple-A Charlotte earned him spots in the Futures Game on July 14 and the Triple-A All-Star Game in Reno, Nev., a few days later. He won’t be playing in those contests now, not that he minds.
At Charlotte he was batting .316 with 18 doubles, 15 home runs and 41 RBIs in 61 games. He was second in the International League with a .597 slugging percentage and third with a .966 OPS.
Yet asked what his biggest adjustment will be now that he is in the major leagues, he talked about defense first.
“You’ve got a big-league pitching staff up here and you have 12 or 13 guys in Triple-A that aren’t quite at this level,” he said. “So every pitcher you see here is better than the guy you caught in Triple-A.
“That’s my main purpose and my biggest job is to handle those guys, get them through the game and get comfortable with them and the way they like to pitch. You have to handle the other team’s roster, how they swing the bat. It’s going to be a big job but I’m ready for the task.”
Manager Robin Ventura has been impressed so far, but is far more concerned with steady production over the long haul and not an impressive few days.
“It’s always tough,” Ventura said about getting your feet wet in the major leagues. “He was playing great in Triple-A and was able to come up. He went through spring training with us the whole time, so guys are familiar with him, he’s familiar with us. He stepped in and kept playing. It’s good as far as getting a hit, a home run, getting that stuff out of the way and keep going.”
Phegley and Tyler Flowers are expected to split time, but since Phegley has arrived he has received three starts (counting Monday) to Flowers’ one.
Despite what could have been an awkward situation with the rising Phegley joining the struggling Flowers, the two have already worked well together.
“As soon as I got here I said ‘hi’ to him and we’ve gotten along great,” Phegley said. “The only other times I’ve seen him is in spring training. We immediately had the catchers’ meeting about the hitters, the opposing team and he immediately came up to me after that and said, ‘Anything you need, I’m here to help you. We’re the catching staff and we’re going to work together and do our best to get these pitchers through the games and be in a winning position.’”
Despite the fact that the catchers will split time, Ventura hopes it can be a win-win situation.
“I think in any situation like that it pushes both of them,” Ventura said. “Competition isn’t always bad. You’d like to see it get the best out of both of them.”